I sat watching him play with our new puppy. His long legs spread awkwardly in front of him, his knobby knees sticking out, unsure of which direction they should be facing.
It was in this mundane moment of everyday life that it hit me.
When I began my journey into motherhood it took over. It became my everything. I read everything I could get my hands on about babies, I watched TV shows chronicling a stranger’s pregnancy, I searched out other mothers because I felt an instant connection.
It was the happiest I have ever been.
Except when it wasn’t.
There is a dark side to motherhood too. It’s the part that most people prefer to forget about. It never gets as much focus as the joy. It can be isolating and terrifying and lonely.
The scariest thing is that it can be different for every person.
For some it comes in the loneliness of the middle of the night feeds. Some relish in the quiet darkness of those early morning hours before anyone else in the house begins to stir while others feel the sadness of being alone with a fussy baby.
For some it comes in the struggle of trying to determine why their baby won’t latch and frustration begins to surround something as natural as feeding, while others want nothing more than to feel the warmth of their baby snuggled close to their skin.
It shows itself differently.
The dark side of motherhood paid me its first visit in a hospital room after my son’s surgery less than three days after my journey began. I couldn’t stop the tears and I feared the unknown.
The darkness covered me like a blanket and wrapped me in sadness. I welcomed the loneliness. I was fully aware of how my tears affected others and how it just caused them more discomfort. I preferred the solitude, as listening to people’s opinions on how I should feel or how I should act quickly grew into one of the most frustrating aspects of the whole ordeal.
The darkness overtook my life and months later, when we were home and beginning the process of building our lives together as a family, it continued to cloud my judgment and speckle my life with grief.
I was nothing without it.
Yet I didn’t recall reading about this.
This dark side of motherhood wasn’t mentioned in the mom groups I attended regularly and it wasn’t a chapter in the baby books I read. They didn’t discuss it in the prenatal classes and I never noticed any posts on Facebook that even hinted at its existence.
If no one talked about it then it must not be normal.
So it remained hidden behind my smiles and it was disguised by the love I showered on my baby. It robbed me of a lot of things, but love for my child wasn’t one of them.
It remained hidden until I pulled it out from the shadows of my life; until the night I decided to write about it. It took a while but instead of feeling shame I started to feel strength. The fact that it existed didn’t make me weak. It was the fact that I worked my way through it that made me strong.
Years later, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, I watched my son play with his puppy and it hit me that we made it to the other side together.
There is a dark side to so many of our journeys and I promise you, it’s so very normal.
When you are right in the thick of it you may not be able to see the end but regardless of why or how the darkness enters your story there will come a day, a very ordinary day, when you will realize that as hard as it was, you survived it.
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